Dismissed as a flimsy front for management interests, industrial unions nonetheless carved out a role in the Carnegie Steel Company empire and then at U.S. Steel. James D. Rose examines the pivotal role played by these company-sponsored employee representation plans (ERPs) at the legendary steel works in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.
As Rose reveals, ERPs matured from tools of the company into worker-led organizations that represented the interests of the mills' skilled tradesmen and workers. ERPs and management created a sophisticated bargaining structure. Meanwhile, the independent trade union gave way to the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), a professionalized organization that expended huge resources on companywide unionization. Yet even when the SWOC secured a collective bargaining agreement in 1937, it failed to sign up a majority of the Duquesne workforce.
Sophisticated and persuasive, Duquesne and the Rise of Steel Unionism confirms that what people did on the shop floor played a critical role in the course of steel unionism.